It’s official. The austerity death count in the neo-liberal attack on Britain is estimated at 846 men and 155 women, according to a report by academics in the British Medical Journal. That’s the number of suicides in Britain above what would have been expected based on historical trends between 2008 and 2010. Two-fifths of the male deaths are directly attributable to rising unemployment. These suicides amount to a proportionately greater death count than the number of Americans who died on 9/11. What is Labour’s response to this death toll?
The Coalition is on the rocks. They may stagger on while the economy continues to flounder, or they may not. Liberal and Tories alike – they are both responsible for the destructive effects of austerity. Those effects are devestating: people are dying; people are impoverished; people are being thrown onto the dole and onto the streets.
What is Labour’s answer. Too many people are dying, too soon? Poor people, disabled people, public sector workers must share the burden? Is is any better for Labour to argue: “We’re all in this together?” Of course not.
It’s time to shift the responsibility for the recession to the Coalition. They didn’t make it happen and nor did we (though all three parties were taken in by the politics of neoliberalism). But they’ve made it last, and they’ve made it worse. And we’ve got to make it end by ending austerity.
It’s time for a war on the terror of austerity. The two Eds must act. We must promise an end to austerity. Investment for jobs and growth. Banks that operate in the public interest. Protected living standards and decent homes for all, guaranteed by fair taxation.
The promise must be clear. No more concessions to the neoliberals in our own ranks. Ignore the barmy calls for zero-budgeting from would-be “rising-stars”. This is is not the time to play triangulation politics, but to pose the clear alternative.
In its coverage of the report, the Guardian quotes Ben Barr, of the public health department at Liverpool University, one of the study’s authors, as saying that joblessness, financial worries, debt and housing issues were probably all factors behind the suicide rise:
There has been a large amount of evidence from other studies and other countries that shows that unemployment is a particular risk factor for suicide.
….There are countries where you don’t see such a relationship [between unemployment and suicide]. Those countries tend to be those [with] good employment protection and wellbeing support, such as those in Scandinavia.”
It also quotes Clare Wyllie, the Samaritans’ head of policy and research, saying that the link between increased suicides and unemployment was well established::
This research gives us credible evidence that the suicide rate in England is linked to the current recession. We’ve seen calls to the helpline from people worried about financial difficulties double since the onset of the economic crisis. In 2008, one in 10 calls to the helpline were about financial issues, now that’s one in five.